Kazu Sumiyaki (Cuppage plaza revisited)

 

It’s been a long time since I last visited this eatery and they’ve refurbished. Still in the same seedy Cuppage plaza though, where we sighted a suspiciously promiscuous woman hanging out the rails of a well placed flight of stairs, calling out to single men.

Charming.

I digress, back to the restaurant! While it did away with the elbow to elbow diner chumminess, the new decor feels rather cold where it was cosy in the past.

The cabbage dip is no longer free. Sacrilege! They charge SGD3 for it now, in smaller portions.

My favorite foie gras skewer arrived over cooked. Sad and rubbery with none of that oozing goodness that graced its former self. What a disappointment.

It seems like the mouth devoured before the camera had a chance. The lamb chop was nice and tender, needed a touch more seasoning but it wasn’t bad.

Sometimes I write blog posts to remind myself that some dishes should never ever be attempted again. This chicken skin skewer is prime target in this post. It was not crunchy, rather, it was chewy. I do not understand the thought process that went behind this dish. Bad.

Pork and apple skewers. I only ordered 3 before they ran out. This was decent, a classic combination of soft, sweet apple and savory pork. Lovely. My only gripe is that the pork could be a little more tender, but I’m happy even with this.

Tsukune (meatball) is usually dipped in egg yolk and eaten, in a glorious pairing of rich yolk and delightful dark sauce. Here, the yolk has been replaced with a dab of mayo, some spring onions and soy sauce. It works almost as well. The meat is cooked to perfection and tender to a fault. Just enough char on it to pique the interest. Very good.

Hotaru ika (firefly squid) is a seasonal delicacy that I love. Pop the entire morsel in your mouth and enjoy. The ones here are cooked well and tender, but tasted a little fishy. We’ve had fresher ones elsewhere.

If I had to pick one dish to come back for it would be this. The humble cheese sausage. Humble in origin it may be but cooked in this manner, with all its blistered skinned finery, it is a delight in the mouth. Juicy and mouthwatering, we could have just made the entire meal about sausages.

We might have ended up with a cheaper bill too! Everything else was more expensive. It was a hefty bill. I left with more disappointment than mixed feelings, from the hole in my pocket to the dishes that felt somewhat lesser than the ones in my memory.

3 out of 5

Fuego, Kuala Lumpur

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Kuala Lumpur is in dire need of good restaurants. With the fantastic array of restaurants that grace the streets of our Asian neighbours in Singapore, Hong Kong and as far away as Japan, it is frustrating that there is much to be desired in terms of quality in our city. These days it is so difficult to find even moderate decent ones, most being sub par. That being said, Fuego has been and still is a favourite go-to as far as decent restaurants go in scarcity. A place with a view (or now, disappointingly, just half a view) of the twin towers and outdoors. Having gone multiple times since its opening several years ago, I can safely vouch for its consistency in good food (bar the one time they accidentally charred my churros).

The Fuego guacamole is a perfect tango of tangy, creamy and savoury, with a zing of freshness lent by a squeeze of lime and final smattering of coriander leaves. If only the portion were more generous! I love the assorted fried chips that are served alongside. Although some of the selections are a tad hard, the variety is pleasing. The dish could be improved by offering thinner, more crisp vegetable chips. The yam chip and lotus root chip are adequate while the plantain chips could do with a bit of work.

Soft shell crab served with a creamy avocado sauce. Another good dish, fried to a thinly crisp exterior and soft and moreish on the inside.

This Chermoula chicken is a stunner. Enough to feed 3-4 people, although we usually order it for 2. The chicken is brined for 24 hours, then marinated in a tantalising mixture of lime juice, paprika, cayenne pepper, coriander and olive oil for another 24 hours before taking a dip in a sous vide bath. Both the brining and the sous vide does wonders for the absolute succulence and juiciness of the final product. After which the chicken is butterflied, smothered in another layer of the chermoula spice marinade and then charred over a charcoal grill and finished in a salamander grill.

The result puts any and all other rotisserie chicken establishments in KL to shame. Served with their spicy diablo sauce, this moist chicken is all lusciousness and layered flavour, evident in every bite.

A dish that I’d order every single time.

Even after that mammoth of a bird, one should always order the churros, freshly fried and dusted with cinnamon and sugar, paired with salted caramel cream dispensed delightfully from an espuma over a dulcey cremeux. The churros are hot, crisp and lightly sweet, and, when dipped into the ethereal cream, just gorgeous beyond words.

Fuego also doubles up as a watering hole, if ever the need arises.

Fuego Restaurant & Bar

Troika Sky Dining, Level 23A, The Troika, Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-2162-0886

 

Thanks to timeout.com for the description of the prep that goes on behind the chicken.

https://www.timeout.com/kuala-lumpur/restaurants/the-dish-chermoula-chicken

Bi.ble, Biei, Hokkaido

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The last two times I was in Hokkaido in summer for the flower farms I never bothered to look up good restaurants, preferring instead to subsist on combini food. However this time, my sister insisted. So with much difficulty I managed to source and reserve a proper restaurant. Fit in with our plans well too as it is smack in the middle of nowhere in Biei, not too far from a couple of famous trees (Mild seven trees they’re called).

We headed there early, hoping to have an earlier dinner than intended as we were all done for the day at Furano, about half an hour away. However, the Japanese, being sticklers for proper timing, really only seated us at 6pm sharp. No slippers allowed, one of the older managers told us. Since we were clad in slippers and had no other foot wear he kindly acquiesced to let it go. A relief that’s for sure.

We were seated by the generous windows, facing a field, or a garden of something that has yet to reach its peak. Very serene and zen with all the light wood, natural light and green views.

I’d already preselected the ¥9000++ menu so all we had to do was order our drinks. Not an extensive drink menu so do not expect a cellar full of old world wines and fine sake.

We kicked off the meal with a cheese and onion quiche or tart of some sort. It was tasty, but did not quite blow the mind. At least it was fresh and piping hot from the oven. Always a plus.

Next, a cheese taco cradling a piece of potato. Hokkaido is renown for its agricultural produce, such as corn, potatoes, asparagus, melons; as well as its dairy products, beer and seafood amongst others. So I was very glad to see this creation of crispy cheese and soft potato. It was indeed an appetite stimulant. Not that my appetite needed whetting at all.

Before you dismiss this as just another hunk of bread, let me clarify that this is THE model of a perfect bread. It’s skin is crisp, like the most fragile crackling, and not so thick that one has to alienate himself from fellow diners by tearing a bite off with his teeth, caveman style. The interior is soft and fluffy. Tasty even, with chunks of cooked potato hidden within. It stays warm for a long time, with the help of heated beans hidden in another compartment of the cloth bag.

This platter of spreads were set upon the table alongside the bread. Ratatouille, pork pâté, smoked herring and freshly pickled vegetables. There is no sane person on earth who would hate such a largesse as this. Even if the individual components were average, I would still love the entirety. Just in case you were wondering, I did like everything, but as I’m not fond of smoked fish, that is my exception by default.

Bread with potato alongside the smoked fish, pâté and pickles. My sister, the bread connoisseur, couldn’t get enough of this bread.

Fried zucchini, battered in some very fine panko. They managed to keep the zucchini firm, so it had a pleasant bite to it. It could however, do with a touch more seasoning.

Potato cappuccino. That would mean cream of potato soup served looking like a cappuccino in a cup with cream froth. Potato and cream meld together such that I can’t tell them apart. No wonder we all love mashed potato. It is delicious heartiness in a delicate cup, and we took cue from a neighboring table to inconspicuously float a few pieces of bread in the cup to soak up every last drop.

This threw us off balance. A floret of boiled broccoli. Neither the sauce or crispy brown bits at the side could save this from being convincingly average.

A glimpse of the simple and rustic yet elegant decor.

Salmon next. Skin was crisp, but I wish it were more flaky tender. A shame that it was slightly overdone.

The venison makes an entrance. I was just a little concerned about how very red it looked but kept my peace. The effusive waiter placed it on my plate with a flourish, explaining that the deer was freshly hunted and roasted over charcoal, to their recommended medium rare doneness. It was served with a spoonful of rich jus and grated fresh horseradish.

He proceeded to spoon some potato gratin alongside the venison. I cut into the venison with a degree of trepidation and dipped it into a mixture of sauce and grated horseradish.

It was perfect. The ruby red succulence of the medium rare doneness betrayed no bloodiness oozing out onto the plate. All that was left was just juicy, meltingly tender meat. And what took it above and beyond was the horseradish. What a beautifully balanced and executed dish. Absolutely perfect in every way.

For dessert they brought out this exquisite behemoth of a Mille feuille. A generous helping of patisserie cream peeps out, sandwiched between two slabs of pastry made up of hundreds of layers each. Every buttered layer in the pastry is separate, intact and almost gauze thin. The waiter will ask if you’d like one or two finger width slices of this beauty.

The waiter then duly slices up the Mille feuille and serves it with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream topped with berry syrup. Every element is carried out with precision and finesse and the results are that of a top notch, consummate pastry chef.

Just when we thought we were done, out came a bowl of warm, freshly fried mochi donuts dusted with sugar and kinako powder. Quintessentially Japanese with a western flair. I loved every bite. And thus ended the dinner on a high.

We went back the next day to buy the potato bread and croissants from the bakery. Safe to be said that it did not disappoint. Most of the croissant ended up on my lap. Testament to how extraordinarily flaky and delicate the morsel was.

Burnt Ends, Singapore (One Michelin Star, 2018)

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How timely that I’m writing this as we learn that Burnt Ends has just received its first Michelin Star! I’ve gone twice so far. A couple of hits and a couple of misses. I’m usually seated at the counter; most of us are. In an open concept kitchen this usually is a treat. If you’re seated near the furnace end however, it could end up getting a tad too hot. In return, you get to see one of the chefs gingerly eking some bread and cheese or pulled pork into the fiery black furnace. And rapidly pulling back as if scalded. There was one poor young fellow who kept burning himself accidentally on the volcanic hot surface. In the middle there’s the prep area and behind them you’ll see shovels of red hot coal cooking up meat and seafood in various degrees. The name “Burnt ends” is apt indeed.

Once you’re seated, you’re given the menu and your friendly waiter will proceed to explain it to you. The service has been good both times so far.

Smoked quail egg topped with caviar. I’m not a fan of anything smoked, so I wouldn’t order this again. Caviar is good though. The smokiness overpowered the caviar so there wasn’t any point to this combination as neither did the other any good. At SGD 18, this was a thumbs down for me, a small bite and not a very good one.

Beef marmalade and house pickles. The cloyingly sweet beef rib “marmalade” is cleverly balanced with a slightly fresh zing of pickles. Slathered on top of a square of sourdough bread, this little appetizer packs a punch of flavour.

I prefer this over the Burnt Ends Sanger, I find the latter remarkably underwhelming, but if you like pork, give it a whirl as that is one of their signature dishes. They’re both tasty and carefully executed for sure, I’m just left wondering if I could get something similar to the Burnt Ends Sanger at some other burger place that serves sliders and the sort.

The Belly Chop, served with an apple and raspberry concoction. There’s sufficient flavour on the belly chop with enough singe and sear to its exterior. While it is soft, there is still some bite to the meat. I’m wondering if they could take it a step further and make the fat absolutely melt in the mouth. It has been done with char siew, perhaps it could be replicated here. Good pairing with the apple and raspberry nonetheless. Classic with a tiny twist.

This crab leg was not on the menu and we had to ask for it specifically. I’m not usually a fan of crab but this shut all my prejudices up so that I sat silent, picking at all remnants of the sweet flesh from the expertly broken shells. I’m absolutely certain that a big part of its charm was the unctuous drenching of the crab in garlic butter and caper sauce, topped with a smattering of chopped fresh parsley. Our ever-friendly waited suggested sourdough bread to mop up that beautiful sauce. I gladly accepted and a couple of minutes later, was happily tearing up a warm, floury loaf of first-class, quality sourdough bread and sopping up all that lovely sauce with it. Scrumptious.

And then the Blackmore’s striploin, which was better than some of the cheaper cuts that we tried previously. This had a far better marbling that was evident in the tenderness of the final cooked steak. Beautifully fatty, you will need to break this up with bites of the pleasantly tangy watercress salad that it came with. The salad is no garnish that’s for sure! I’d order it as is and still enjoy every bite. Simplicity at its finest.

Pricey it is, but the right dishes shine through and give heft to the brand. However, I think that they should step up their game since they now hold a one star. I believe they can go much further than this.

Address: 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore 088391

Phone: +65 6224 3933

Coconut Club, Singapore

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Hands down, the best nasi lemak in Singapore. It’s comparable if not better than the famed Village Park nasi lemak in KL, by virtue of its superior fried chicken and convenient location, nestled within Ann Siang hill. I would, however, give Village Park the edge for its sambal.

The coconut club adopts a no straw policy. A minor inconvenience that’s for sure but I believe it’s a good notion, whether or not they’re trying to skimp on the cost of plastic straws.

You’re given a basic nasi lemak option and the option of jazzing it up with additional items like more egg, extra chicken and the such. I can’t quite remember the drinks unfortunately, although I most likely went for the Milo. Nasi Lemak and Milo, what a winning combination!

I greedily opted for an extra fried egg and almost regretted it when the food arrived. Portions are generous when it comes to their exceptional nasi lemak, not that I’m complaining at all as I love my food.

The fried eggs are nicely browned just around the edges and yolks ooze a perfect molten gold. Fried chicken is seasoned well and manages to be a tantalizing crisp golden brown on the outside and all tender juiciness on the inside. Even the ikan bilis is crisp and crackling perfect, nudging away every memory of stale, chewy ikan bilis in lesser eateries. And what is nasi lemak without the full monty ? There’s a generous helping of peanuts and the usual side of cucumbers to help combat the spice of some very delightful sambal. It can get a tad spicy, so fair warning.

We ended the meal with a bowl of chendol each. The shaved ice is so fine it tastes like it belongs in the acclaimed powder snows of Niseko. However, I tend to mix my chendol up and stir it into a soup before I eat it, so the texture was unfortunately lost on me. I would have preferred more gula melaka and other toppings but this was a decent go.

One of my favourite haunts these days, should I decide to let loose and go on a binge!

4.5/5 for the nasi lemak!

Address: 6 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069787

Ryunabe, Niseko, Hokkaido

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I’m not the biggest fan of hot pot. One has to brave steam, heat, slippery floors and distasteful arrays of unappetizing raw meat with platters of bland looking vegetables upon entering a typical hot pot restaurant. If that wasn’t enough, you’re served with broth that tastes exactly like boiled water and you’re expected to cook the said raw meats and vegetables in this sorry excuse of a broth.

I’ve been to Hai Di Lao, and thankfully had a better experience, what with the waitresses cooking the food for you and you’re given the option of much tastier soups. The meats and Co, however, still have much room for improvement.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon this place (ok fine, in all transparency, I stalked friends who were also in Niseko).

The broths offered looked and sounded extraordinary; thick fish soup with Hokkaido milk, fish maw and chicken broth and lastly a seafood and tomato soup base. A far cry from the feeble broths offered elsewhere at other hot pot restaurants that pale to near invisibility when compared to this. Ryunabe is unfortunately also very expensive, so we chose to only focus on the hot pot and ignored the sashimi/alcohol.

The dips and condiments were satisfactory as well, spicy chopped chili, sesame sauce, chopped raw garlic and spring onions. After dithering for a bit between the fish soup and chicken soup we settled on the latter.

Behold!

Just look at that soup! It certainly tastes like proper rich Cantonese soup that is topped up again and again whenever required. I would have been content with just the soup alone.

But then the meats arrived, beautifully marbled and precisely fanned out on pretty plates, each with a little piece of paper containing cooking instructions down to the very second of cooking.

Meats of the highest quality I’ve ever seen in a hot pot place. With the exception of some top notch shabu restaurants of course but I think I would prefer Ryunabe still for its delicious soup bases. Shabu broths tends to consist of either water or a thin subtle broth of dashi, so clearly Ryunabe scores higher in the soup base department.

The non beef items included pork slices, fresh, rosy pink fish, some dumplings and a bowl of beautifully arranged vegetables.

Almost forgot the udon, by which time we were stuffed and could not quite finish it. Even in food comatose mode we could tell the the udon is better than most. Everything on the table was top notch, perhaps the dumplings were average but that’s the only exception.

The waitress topped up our soup at least 5 times, not because it all evaporated and dried out, but because we kept drinking it by the bowlfuls. It was that good.

We sobered up as we got the bill though, but absolutely no regrets, it was a terrific meal. Garlic and all.

They also deliver and set up a hot pot meal for you to enjoy in the comfort of your apartment if you wish. After a long day on the slopes it does sound tempting indeed.

191-22 AZA YAMADA, KUTCHAN-CHO, ABUTA-GUN, HOKKAIDO.

Restaurant Phone : (+81)0136-555-304

Reservation Tel: (+81)0136-555-304 & (+81)090-5953-5168

Sogong Jukjip, a porridge place in Seoul

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This is a rather hole-in-the wall porridge place in Seoul. Nevertheless the food is soulful and good. The banchan is also simple, but they would be foods that you probably won’t be able to find in Malaysia. Even if you do it wouldn’t be this fresh.

We got our hotel concierge to help us make a reservation. The place isn’t very big and is like a family style restaurant. We walked to the restaurant to find the proprietor pacing up and down the road, looking out for us, which was very nice of him as we would have missed it otherwise, being unable to read Korean hangul. My Korean is limited to the common phrases bandied about in dramas. My interest in a drama peaks when someone starts eating onscreen. Delicious food they have in Korea, and Korean style porridge is satisfyingly savoury, unlike the bland Teochew style porridge that people seem to enjoy back in South East Asia.

The colourful storefront.

They’ve got a variety of porridges, ranging from vegetable to beef to abalone and even uni porridge. The sea urchin lover that I am immediately picked this out and I excitedly pointed to the photo in the menu (thank god for picture menus).

I was served a warm bowl of thick rice congee, with tongues of lightly cooked golden sea urchin peeping out like treasure. Seaweed is scattered over as garnish and a single egg yolk graces the very centre of the bowl.

As you can see, the banchan includes some spicy fermented squid, blanched vegetables, seaweed and fresh kimchi. There is nothing else to want for. The porridge manages to be tasty, yet gentle and subtle in layers of flavour that stand out the more you eat it. It isn’t cheap but I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and would definitely come back again.

Address: 86-1 Bukchang-dong, Jung-guSeoul 100-080, South Korea
Phone: +82 2-752-6400

Restoran Shangri-La, Batai, Kuala Lumpur

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Penang is surely the holy grail when it comes to our favourite hawker foods. The best assam laksa, the best char kway teow, the best oh zhien (fried oyster omelette), the best prawn mee, and the litany goes on. But us poor souls elsewhere have to scrounge and scrape (or at the very least, go on numerous foodie trips around town) to get at something close to the standards that Penang generously offers in its bountiful hawker stalls.

I was very pleased when I finally came across Restoran Shangri-la, a coffee shop located in Plaza Batai that I would never have deigned to visit if not for friends.

Best Char Kway Teow in KL! It has the elusive wok hei, without the use of dark soy sauce that many char kway teow places abuse, and enough oil and spice to make it sinfully delicious. It makes use of blood cockles as well, as the Penang version does. Top it off with a perfectly deep fried egg and there you have it, a winning plate of delectable, aromatic, mouth-watering goodness.

The pork noodles is famous as well. I usually go for the kway teow soup noodles, topped with an egg. Noodle soup it may be but healthy it is not! How could it be when it tastes so rich and smooth, with a couple of ubiquitous lardons floating on the surface. The pork meat is soft and the thin kway teow has a silk-like mouthfeel.

A very hearty bowl indeed.

Might I say, these dishes are comparable to that of Penang’s?

Address: 7, Jalan Batai, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Myhumblefood cookbooks are finally out!!!

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After two long years my books are finally done and dusted. I’ve compiled two books, the first Myhumblefood book concentrates on Asian home cooking. The second book is a little more fun; along with some Western home cooking, I’ve also added a section on Food Art which is something I really enjoy. They’re both priced at RM 300 a set for people residing in Malaysia, or SGD 120 a set for those in Singapore.

Free delivery for those in Bangsar and Damansara Heights only.

Please PM me for details!

Special note: 50% of gross profit from the sale of the books will be donated to the National Kidney Foundation as well as the Great Heart Charity Foundation. Should you decide to also donate in addition to buying the book(s), 100% of your donation will go directly to these causes.

Thank you all very much for your love and support!

 

Tin Lung Heen, Hong Kong (Two Michelin star, 2016)

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This restaurant is conveniently located in our hotel and has an excellent view. We had wanted to sit by the window and thought we secured a table by the window, but there was a miscommunication and we weren’t able to get a window seat.

Of course we weren’t too happy about that, as the whole point of us going to the restaurant is for dimsum with a view. However, the manager came over to explain, apologize and finally offer us a glass of champagne each and whatever dessert we wanted on the house. Pretty nice of them I thought, and it turned out well since there was absolutely no view that day due to the smog/fog that engulfed Hong Kong.

DSC08315

Century egg with preserved ginger in a puff pastry. Interesting dish, the ginger and century egg seemed to melt together in the pastry. I think I still prefer century eggs as is with slices of pink ginger to go with it.

DSC08319Baked crab tarts with onion and cheese. This was one tasty morsel! The tart was buttery and flakey and everything a truly well made pastry should be. And how could one go wrong with onion and cheese in a tart?DSC08324Polo char siew pao with barbecued Iberian pork. While the filling of barbecued Iberian pork didn’t give much to admire, the pastry was to die for! It had a delicate crusty exterior, slightly sweet, and crumbles charmingly upon biting into it. Coupled with the Iberian pork filling, this easily became my favourite dimsum dish of the day.IMG_2707Look at that perfection!

We also ordered the normal steamed char siew pao with barbecued Iberian pork, but without that delicious polo pao exterior, it was just another char siew pao for me….only fluffier.IMG_2716Xiao Long Bao. The skin on this is not as thin and delicate as the one at Marriott in KL, but the filling is much better. Good flavour and texture on the meat and a lovely soup.DSC08331This was my dining partner’s favourite dish of the day. You can hardly see the siew mai here as the abalone and prawn outweighs the pork base, but the siew mai itself is large and substantial. It had a very satisfying mixture of marinated pork and some mushroom, and even eaten alone, it doesn’t disappoint. Now, add the luxurious topping of a perfectly cooked, crunchy prawn and a tender braised abalone – the humble siew mai then undergoes a delightful transformation. This is a basic dimsum elevated and improved by doing the basics right and pairing it with well cooked ingredients that complement it.DSC08334Complimentary jelly and sesame biscuitsDSC08343No dimsum is complete without egg tarts!!! I loved the egg tarts! The pastry chef at Tin Lung Heen is excellent, seeing that all the pastries were stellar. Warm, buttery, flaky and fragrant – this describes all the pastries that we had that day. This egg tart was no different. I could have eaten a plateful of these tarts. IMG_2718Double boiled milk with birds nest in ginger. This was really good too, very good marriage of milk and ginger. The gelatinous birds nest also has a nice texture to it, and is neither stringy nor tough.

All in all a great meal and good experience. I must add that champagne also goes very well with dimsum!

Tin Lung Heen 天龍軒
102/F, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon MTR)
Tel: +852 2263 2270
restaurantreservation.hk@ritzcarlton.com
Opening Hours: 12:00pm – 2:30pm, 6:00pm – 10:30pm (Mon to Fri), 11:30am – 3:00pm, 6:00pm – 10:30pm (Sat to Sun)

Dress Code: No beach sandals, open toe shoes, sleeveless shirts and shorts for gentlemen